FSPA Students Experience Broadway with Master Classes, NEWSIES and More

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Musical theater students from the Franklin School for the Performing Arts (FSPA) traveled to New York City on January 18-21 to hone their craft and take master classes with Broadway artists. The customized weekend program was offered to FSPA by Broadway Artists Alliance (BAA) of New York City. Classes were held at Ripley-Grier Studios, where many Broadway shows audition and rehearse. The memorable weekend featured a performance of Broadway's hit Tony Award-winning musical Newsies, including a special opportunity to meet and talk afterwards with members of the cast. Students also enjoyed a special reception with FSPA alumni currently living and working in New York City.

An orientation session with BAA Founder and Director Jennifer Johns kicked off a full weekend of instruction. Tony Award winner Beth Leavel, honored for her performance in the title role of The Drowsy Chaperone, led a song interpretation master class. A Broadway veteran, Leavel's credits also include Elf, Mamma Mia, Young Frankenstein, 42nd Street and Showboat. Dance classes with Broadway's TyRick Jones (Finnian's Rainbow, Hairspray) and Heather Parcells (Wonderland, A Chorus Line) followed in the afternoon. Sunday sessions featured a song interpretation master class with Kyle Dean Massey, who performed the roles of Gabe in Broadway's Next to Normal and Fyero in Wicked. Jeff Shade, whose Broadway credits include Sweet Charity, directed by Bob Fosse, and Chicago (Dance Captain), led dance master classes. Following another song interpretation master class with Michelle Federer, who originated the role of Nessarose in Wicked, the afternoon wrapped up with an acting master class in improvisation led by casting director and actor Joe Langworth (Follies, Ragtime). Monday morning workshops featured a theater dance master class with Tony Mansker (Bert in Mary Poppins) and a song interpretation master class with Megan McGinnis (Eponine in Les Miserables, Belle in Beauty and the Beast).

"It's really inspiring to work with performers who are so accomplished," said Jenna McDermott, age 14, from Wrentham. "Seeing and appreciating how good they are makes you more determined to improve. It's an opportunity that most kids don't get to have. All of the Broadway stars were great to work with and made you feel comfortable taking risks and trying new things. They also taught us about the business side of musical theater and what life is like as a working artist in New York City."

The 21 FSPA students who attended the BAA program are Madi Asgeirsson, Mia Fleischer, Ali Funkhouser, Graham Hancock, Jocelyn Jones, Lucas Melfi, Stephanie Schiavo, Lindsay Sparages and Lauren Szczepanowski from Franklin; Michael Fajardo and Sara Weissinger from Hopkinton; Katie Compson and Alison Mandell from Medfield; Sydney Cozzolino and Zoe Ramaci from Mendon; Katie Gray from Milford; Jack Mullen from Millis; Mikaela Alioto, Aidan Ignatius, Anneka Ignatius and Jenna McDermott from Wrentham.

Many of the students were invited to return for a BAA Weekend Intensive in February, when they will participate in advanced classes and audition for an industry panel of NYC agents, managers and casting directors.

Serving more than 50 Massachusetts communities at locations in Franklin and Hudson, FSPA offers instruction and performing opportunities in music, dance and drama. Registration is ongoing throughout the school year. For more information, call (508) 528-8668 or visit www.fspaonline.com.

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